Eggshell vs Satin Paint
Visit any paint store, chosen color chip in hand, and you’ll likely face a barrage of questions you hadn’t bargained for. What quality of paint do you wish to purchase? What is the width and height of your walls? How many windows and doors does the room have? Which paint sheen do you want to use? Egghshell vs Satin paint? Seriously. Is it any wonder why the average homeowner puts off painting their home as long as they possibly can?
While sampling and finally selecting a new paint color is stressful enough, you’ll want to ensure that the chosen paint will hold up to the rigors of your everyday household life. That’s where “The Epic Guide to Choosing Eggshell vs Satin Paint” comes in. This tome on paint sheens will give you the knowledge, lingo, and confidence to choose the ideal sheen for every room of your home. So, let’s get started.
Understanding The Lingo
When ordering paint, you will be asked what paint sheen (eggshell vs satin and a whole slew of others )you prefer. Paint sheen refers to the amount of shine you’ll notice on the painted wall. Some stores interchange the words “paint finish” for paint sheen, but they’re asking the same question. Would you prefer an eggshell vs satin paint sheen (or maybe flat vs semi-gloss)? Throughout this article you’ll find I occasionally swap the word sheen for finish, shininess, or gloss, and ALL refer back to the amount of shine you’ll detect once the wall has been painted.
It’s important to note that the shinier a paint is, the better it washes. Traditional flat paints are quite porous making them nearly impossible to wipe down without leaving behind a burnish mark. Burnishing occurs when the paint’s sheen increases due to scrubbing.This produces a “shiny” mark that’s quite visible in relation to the rest of the painted wall. If you need high washability, a higher sheen paint will fulfill your needs with ease.
Criteria To Consider When Choosing A Paint Sheen
1) How Will The Room Be Used?
Knowing the way the room in question will be used is a very important aspect of the paint sheen equation. For example, a dining room that only gets used during special holidays will not require the same washability that a powder room may. Conversely, if that same dining room is where you eat all of your family meals a more washable paint may be needed. Take mental inventory of how often, and in what manner, the newly painted room will be used.
2) Who Will Occupy or Use The Room?
This question is straightforward, but don’t choose to gloss (pun intended!) over it. Included in this category are three different washability needs. Adults, for the most part, will generally keep their hands off walls thus requiring the least amount of cleaning. Children add to the need for high washability, and pets up the ante even more. Keep in mind that the more sheen a paint has, the more washable it becomes. Eggshell and Satin sheens are perfect for these scenarios; eggshell for the adults and satin for the children and/or pets.
3) What Surface Are You Painting?
While there will always be exceptions to the rule, a drywall surface will generally be painted with a flat, matte, eggshell, or satin (in specific instances) sheen. Satin, semi-gloss, or gloss are the preferred sheen for cabinetry, doors, and woodwork.
4) Consider The Condition Of The Surface
Shine highlights divots and dings in walls, doors, and trim work. This is one of the reasons that traditional flat and matte paint is so popular for walls. Between nail pops, artwork nail holes, and normal wear and tear, drywall is rarely perfect making paint with minimal sheen ideal. The higher shine of satin and semi-gloss paints makes quick work of door and trim clean up, but also highlights any imperfections. Repairing any woodwork imperfections prior to painting will provide lasting and beautiful results.
5) How Much Light Is Available In The Room?
In addition to higher paint sheens providing superior washability, they also help bounce light back into the room. On the other side of the coin, flat paint absorbs light because of its lack of reflectivity. When painting a room with little natural and/or artificial light, consider using a paint with some sheen to help reflect the limited light back into the space. If the room has an abundance of light, a lower sheen paint can be a beautiful option.
6) How Light or Dark Is The Color?
Light paint colors naturally reflect light whereas darker shades absorb it. Now that you’re beginning to understand the ins and outs of paint sheens, you’ll realize that having a darker paint color mixed in a higher paint sheen could make it feel a little lighter and less heavy. Good to know, right?
What’s The Difference Between Eggshell vs Satin Paint? (And, Any Other Sheen)
If you do a fair amount of painting, you may have noticed that every eggshell finish paint does not produce the same amount of sheen. Some eggshell paints are definitively shinier than others, making the choice of finish more complicated. So, let’s determine the differences between eggshell vs satin paint, and all other sheens available in the U.S. Market.
Because of the proliferation of sheen discrepancies, the Master Painters Institute (MPI) developed an architectural standards system for paint sheen classification. It should be noted that within the 85+ unit system, there is a fair amount of leeway within each category. This is the reason behind the sheen differences you may notice between various paint companies’ products.
Truth be told, not every eggshell finish among paint lines will necessarily match, even if it was produced by the same paint manufacturer. Case in point are my personal favorite Benjamin Moore products. The eggshell finishes of their Ultra Spec, BEN, Regal Select, Natura, and Aura lines are not exact replicas of one another. Interestingly enough, the least shiny of the eggshell finishes belongs to the commercial grade Ultra Spec line, and the finish gets a little shinier with each upgrade in price and quality. If we remember that shinier paint washes more easily, it stands to reason that the higher priced (and quality) paints can be a better bang for the buck in the long run.
To tie down the sheen differences between various paints, MPI ran a laboratory study employing the use of a “state of the art gloss meter”. This gloss meter has a standardized light source in addition to a light receiving monitor to measure the amount of noticeable gloss, or sheen, of the various paint samples. With the help of the gloss meter, a range of allowed “shininess” was developed helping the paint purchaser to be reasonably certain of what’s inside the can of paint he or she is buying. So, let’s take a look at the testing methods.
Each paint sample was measured daily for a period of 28 days to verify the results. Measurements were taken from both a 60 and 85 degree angle to the wall due to the fact that sheen is most noticeable from an angle rather than looking at it straight on. Units of measure for the test were named “Gloss Units”. Gloss Units refer to the amount of light reflected from a surface versus the light that is scattered by the same surface. Fewer gloss units equal a lower sheen paint. Interior paint was measured on a scale of 5 to 85+ gloss units.
5 to 10 Gloss Units – Flat Paint
Traditional flat paint has the least amount of shine and washability among the various paint sheens. It tends to be a favorite with builders for a couple of reasons. First, flat paint generally is the least expensive sheen you can purchase. Second, because flat paint reflects so little light it “hides’ most drywall imperfections that may be present. A great benefit of flat paint is that it touches up with the fewest complications. For those that prefer the flattest of flat sheens, the excellent touch up quality can make up for the lack of washability IF you don’t mind touching up your walls with paint rather than washing them.
10 to 35 Gloss Units – Matte Paint
The advent of matte paint has been an excellent addition to the architectural coatings world. The small amount of shine it has gives a smooth feel to the painted wall, while also providing some washability. For those that prefer a non-glossy surface, but require the ability of wiping down the walls on occasion, this sheen is perfect.
10 to 35 Gloss Units – Eggshell Paint
You may notice that both eggshell and matte paints are listed with a 10 to 35 gloss units rating. The biggest reason for this is that not all companies have a matte finish product; they go from a traditional flat to an eggshell sheen. Typically you’ll find a matte finish rates lower in the 10 to 35 gloss unit measurement system while eggshell rates on the higher end. Eggshell is a “bridge sheen” in that it bridges the gap between flat and glossy paints. While it doesn’t touch up as easily as a flat paint, it’s the first sheen that can take more than a minor wipe down without affecting the finish. Eggshell is beautiful choice if you prefer to have a slight glow to your paint / paint color.
Minimum of 35 Gloss Units – Satin or Pearl Paint
The term satin or pearl are virtually interchangeable. One company calls their paint of 35 gloss units satin, while another may name it pearl. In fact, Benjamin Moore utilizes both terms amongst their various paint lines. Satin paint has a very smooth, but not glossy, finish. Because some homeowners are adverse to high sheen paint, satin has become a relatively new favorite for cabinetry, doors, trim, and furniture. When I specify paint finishes for clients, I’m partial to pairing this door/trim finish with matte walls. Satin is also a popular finish for bathrooms and kitchens walls where high washability is a must.
35 to 70 Gloss Units – Traditional Semi-Gloss Paint
Here in Southern Indiana where I live and work, semi-gloss paint tends to be the glossiest preferred paint finish. It has excellent washability (scrubability actually) making it an excellent choice for all types of wood work. It’s also the finish that I specifiy most with eggshell painted walls. Remember the shinier the paint the more readily the eye perceives surface imperfections. For this reason make sure your surface is smooth, and if it’s not, make the needed repairs.
70 to 85 Gloss Units – Gloss Paint
As we climb to the summit of glossy paint sheens, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the application of gloss and high gloss paints are better left to a seasoned professional painter. Even though the glossier paints level out brush marks better than lower sheen paints, they are a bit more difficult to work with.
Greater Than 85 Units – High Gloss Paint
High gloss paint has a glass like appearance that can be stunning on a front door. Dark and bold colors can appear more intense with this sheen so make 100% sure that you truly want to highlight whatever you use it on.
Using Eggshell vs Satin Paint In Your Home
To ensure you have every tool you’ll ever need to make a paint sheen selection, I’ve included information on the typical application of each sheen in a household setting. I mention “typical application” because any one or more of your answers to the initial six questions could, in fact, require you to use a sheen in a different manner than listed below. That’s okay! Stick to your guns and order paint in the sheen that will produce the best results for your project.
Flat Paint – Due to the fact that traditional flat paint cannot be successfully washed, it should be used in areas that won’t be regularly touched or inadvertently brushed up against. For this reason, ceilings are the only surface I recommend painting with this sheen.
Matte Paint – Over 75% of my clients prefer the look of flat paint, but none are fond of the way it wears and cleans up. Thank goodness companies like Benjamin Moore have filled the gap with a sheen that has the hallmark look of a traditional flat but can hold its own when being washed. Because this sheen isn’t quite as washable as an eggshell finish, I suggest that it be used in the “adult” areas of the home don’t receive “high traffic”. These spaces would include: adult or guest bedrooms, living rooms, family rooms, dens, and dining rooms.
Eggshell Paint – Truth be told, an eggshell finish paint is my favorite sheen. Why? Because I absolutely adore the lovely glow it gives to colors and the wall, plus I need at least that much sheen in my working household of four family members. That being said, eggshell can be used anywhere you’d use a matte sheen paint. Because it’s more washable than matte, I highly suggest using it in foyers and hallways; areas you know will see a lot of use. It’s also makes easy (wall!) clean up of children’s bedrooms and playrooms.
Satin Paint or Pearl – In my humble opinion, satin finish paint is probably the most versatile of the finishes. Satin paint is scrubbable and resists moisture making it the perfect selection for a bath room and/or kitchen. Its unique sheen (not super glossy and certainly not flat) is equally at home on walls as it is on doors, trim work, and cabinetry. What criteria do I use when deciding where a satin sheen? Bath and kitchen walls need superior washability, so I strongly suggest using it these areas. The other place it can be appropriate is on the doors and trim work of rooms whose walls have been painted a matte finish. In order to create a pleasing sheen contrast between walls and doors/trim work, leap-frogging over a sheen is best. So if you prefer matte finish walls, leap-frog over eggshell finish to a satin paint for doors and trim.
Benjamin Moore Bath & Spa Paint – This matte sheen fills a very important void. As I mentioned earlier, a high percentage of my clients prefer matte finish walls, but everything we’ve learned up to this point has steered us away from that sheen for bathrooms. With the advent of Benjamin Moore’s Bath & Spa Paint, we can have our matte bathroom walls and not worry about the high humidity damaging the finish. Nor do we need to fret over dirt smudges because this paint cleans up like a dream. If you’re a die-hard matte finish fan, this paint was created with you in mind.
Semi-gloss Paint – Semi-gloss is a highly durable and scrubable paint finish that’s perfect for doors, trim work, and cabinetry. It’s also the finish I specify most for those with eggshell paint on their walls. Semi-gloss produces a very smooth to the touch, light reflective finish that enhances the beauty of doors, trim work, and cabinetry making it perfect for a kitchen.
Gloss Paint – Gloss paint is appropriate to use on the same surfaces as semi-gloss. The only addition I have would be that it’s a gorgeous finish for a piece of furniture. Especially one that has ornate details and/or will be painted a bold color as the dresser below. Stunning, isn’t it?
High Gloss Paint – Last, but not least, is high gloss paint. Unless you wish to highlight any imperfections, a completely smooth surface is a must for this finish. I’ve seen both ceilings and walls painted this sheen, but my absolute favorite is a front door. There’s something incredibly inviting about a shiny front door treated to a lovely color.
In closing, choosing a paint sheen isn’t that difficult once you’re aware of the criteria by which to base your decision. And, should you ever forget you can always refer back to this article. If you’re like most of my clients, though, and are still struggling to select the perfect paint color I invite you to visit my Home page. There you can sign up to receive a nifty checklist for selecting paint colors. With my compliments, of course!